CD Review: Free Strain (Self Titled)
Written By: Joe Lamere
In this era of flash-in the pan hit singles
and heavily auto-tuned performances, it is good to know there are a few artists pushing the boundaries with high-quality,
genre-defying musicianship & songwriting. Free Strain is one of those bands. The aptly titled opening track “Intense
Feeling” sets the tone---it is a powerful instrumental that starts off with a great guitar lead that channels Steve
Howe’s flashiest Yes moments. At the 1:15 mark there is an abrupt change, and we are briefly transported
into Zappa land---then back to the main theme. These first three minutes herald a band with chops and songwriting skills.
The third track “The People Tank” shows a definite early Red Hot Chili Peppers influence. “You Are A Question”
is another great track that starts off with a heavy funk riff, then transitions easily to a reggae, jam-band chorus.
The undisputed masterpiece, the track that
deserves to bring this band into the major leagues is “Stop Spending Our Children’s Inheritance”.
Jeff McLaughlin’s songwriting skills are clearly evident here---a loping, trippy melody underpinned by Keenan’s
Jaco-esque basslines. The transition from the verse to the chorus is a thing of beauty.
Brian Egan’s powerhouse
drums drive the heavy, yet melodic “People Take the Speed they’re Given” This track could tear down the
walls at a live venue---any club owners out there---book this band now! Interspersed throughout the CD are many short, mood
pieces that really show the bands diversity. Lots of care and time went into this project---years of perfecting the songs
& getting the best possible recording. Free Strain has succeeded in making one of the best albums of the year.